At its Build 2014 conference in San Francisco today, Microsoft made a slew of software and hardware announcements.
Here’s a quick recap of everything announced at the event – and we’re not including the fact that all attendees were treated to an Xbox One and a $500 Microsoft Store gift card. Damn.
Windows Phone 8.1
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Among its first announcements was Windows Phone 8.1, an update to its mobile operating system featuring a personal digital assistant named Cortana, a new Action Center, and support for customizable lock-screens and backgrounds. Windows Phone 8.1 will ship on devices starting in May with the new range of Lumia smartphones.
Microsoft also outlined a myriad of business-focused features for Windows Phone 8.1, including support for enterprise VPN, S/MIME encryption, and new mobile device management (MDM) capabilities.
Finally, the company also revealed it’s making Windows for phones and tablets less than 9 inches in size available for free.
Over in the desktop realm, Microsoft also unveiled Windows 8.1 Update 1, which will be arriving on April 8. New features include an improved Taskbar, better task switching, and Start Screen tweaks that focus on mouse and keyboard users. In short, modern (“Metro”) apps now have Taskbar buttons and title bars. Microsoft has also pre-pinned the Windows Store to the Start Screen.
Universal Windows apps
This one in particular is a big deal – Microsoft today announced universal Windows apps which work across PCs, phones, tablets and the Xbox One. So the Windows runtime in Windows 8.1 Update 1, for example, will be available to Windows Phone developers too.
‘New’ Office for touchscreen devices
Less than a week after Microsoft launched Office for iPad, the computing giant today previewed a “work in progress” version of the suite, designed specifically for Windows-based touchscreen devices. The presentation centered on a new version of PowerPoint, which Kirk Koenigsbauer, CVP for Microsoft Office, said was “early user experience” code.
Taking inspiration from the existing Office apps built on Win32, he showed a preview of the “backstage” area where users can open recent documents, files stored in OneDrive, or create new projects based on a template.
Windows for the ‘Internet of Things’
Say wha’? Yup, Microsoft announced it will soon launch a version of Windows for the Internet of Things, costing absolutely zero for hardware-makers to use.
The Internet of Things, for those who don’t know, refers to the phenomenon of everyday objects becoming increasingly ‘connected’ – so cars, refrigerators, watches – you get the idea. The decision is undoubtedly aimed at ensuring Windows continues to dominate in market share.
Lumia 930: High-end smartphone
Nokia announced a new flagship Lumia smartphone at BUILD today – the 930. The device is built for the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update and features a 5-inch display, wireless charging and a 20MP camera with optical image stabilization. It’s powered by a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor.
Nokia plans to begin selling the Lumia 930 in Europe this June for $599. Unfortunately for US customers, the phone won’t arriving Stateside.
Nokia Lumia 630 and 635: Budget smartphones
Taking to the stage in San Francisco, Stephen Elop unveiled the two latest ‘affordable’ Lumia devices, before revealing that given they’re launching in May, these will in fact be the first devices to get Windows Phone 8.1, the much anticipated update to its mobile OS that was announced shortly before.
The Lumia 635 features 4G LTE, while the 630 will sport a 3G single-SIM version and a 3G dual-SIM variant – both will come with quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processors and 4.5″ ClearBlack screens. The 630 (single SIM) will cost $159, 630 (dual-SIM) will set you back $169, while the 635 will weigh in at $189.